Legislators give short shrift to education, again

Education lands near the top of the public’s list of issues every year during the legislative session–for good reason, of course. Economies and societies rely on an educated workforce. So, what is the state of education in our state? The bills being advanced this legislative session offer a few clues.

Senator Alvin Jackson is sponsoring SB104, which seeks to turn school board elections into partisan battles. Making elections partisan would surely bring irrelevant, distractive, or previously exhausted issues to the table. School board elections shouldn’t be about politics. Although I’ll concede that politics and individual opinion play a role in educational decisions, it should play a limited one and shouldn’t be subject to a letter next to a candidate’s name. A board member’s job is to ensure a quality education, free from partisan worrying.

Now for some educational reform legislation: SB60, sponsored by Senator Howard Stephenson. This bill would require high school students to pass the US Civics test, currently administered to green card hopefuls, before being eligible for a diploma. While the stakes on this bill are low, the desire for more standardized testing is startling. Educators should be focused on holistically growing students, not finagling more rigidity into the curriculum. Surely there are education issues more deserving of legislative attention.

And while teacher salary and technological investment are certainly some of those issues, they are apparently not important enough to justify a .5% state income tax increase, according to the House Education Committee, which rejected Rep. Jack Draxler’s HB54. Rep. Dan McKay said that Draxler’s bill, which called for the tax hike, undermined the work done by appropriations. Really? Utah is dead last for dollars spent per pupil across the nation. Whether or not taxing is the answer for improving public education, it seems that Utah should get in line with others willing to invest more in their children’s futures.

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